Don Wilson is Curator Emeritus of Mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and was director of the Smithsonian’s Biodiversity Programs for ten years. A distinguished mammalogist and an internationally recognized authority on bats, his work has taken him around the world conducting field work and research. He has led tours for Smithsonian Journeys to most of the world’s greatest natural history destinations from Antarctica to Africa. Read his field notes from the trip below:
An African Safari is one of the most exciting adventures offered by Smithsonian Journeys. I lead them regularly, but never get tired or bored. Every trip offers new and exciting views of animals, interesting people, and something to look forward to every single day. This September’s journey was no exception.
We had a very nice, compatible group of about 20 people, and by our final stop at Royal Zambezi Lodge in Zambia, we were getting very good at identifying mammals and birds, and were becoming more comfortable with seeing large animals such as elephants and hippos up close and personal. Normally we do this from the safety and comfort of our safari vehicles, but we have the opportunity to do both walking and canoeing safaris at Royal Zambezi, and we had already had some exciting encounters with some elephants.
On our final day, a familiar elephant with a recognizable tear in one ear showed up to wish us good-bye. As we were getting our coffee from the deck where we enjoyed our alfresco meals, the elephant drew closer and closer. Finally it was so close it could scoop the fallen leaves and nuts from the rain gutters on the lodge building. A few folks were still trying to get down to breakfast, and they had to delay their approach until the elephant, a young but quite large bull, had enjoyed his fill.